By Genalyn Kabiling
Middle-income families may still receive assistance from the government but not necessarily in terms of food and cash subsidies, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said last Wednesday.
As the enhanced community quarantine remains in effect in Luzon, Nograles admitted that the government would prioritize the provision of food and other subsidies to impoverished families and other marginalized sectors.
“We will be extending assistance but hindi siguro (probably not) in terms of cash or foods assistance,” Nograles said during a Palace press briefing when asked about the government aid for middle-income families during the quarantine period.
“There are other ways to provide assistance tulad ng mga—iyong sa mga utang na puwedeng iyong palugit doon sa utang ‘di ba, iyong grace period (There are other ways to provide assistance like the grace period for loan payments). These things are also important. These things matter also,” he added.
Nograles assured the families belonging to the middle class that the government will constantly review the situation and determine additional assistance to those affected by the quarantine period.
At present, low-income families will be given emergency subsidy under the Bayanihan law recently signed by President Duterte.
“Siyempre, uunahin natin iyong mga marginalized, iyong mga nangangailangan, the impoverished communities… those who are most in need (Of course, we will prioritize the marginalized, those in need, the impoverished communities, those who are most in need),” he said.
Nograles conceded that the government assistance during the coronavirus emergency would depend on the budget.
“It’s really a matter of budget and it’s really a matter of knowing also saan ba tayo makakatulong sa ‘which sector (which sectors will be assisted),” he said.
“So sa middle-income sector, there are other ways also that government can help you. If it’s not food assistance or cash assistance, it’s in other ways that we can help solve your problems habang naka-quarantine po tayong lahat (while we are on quarantine),” he added.
Under the Bayanihan law, the President is authorized to provide emergency subsidy ranging from P5,000 to P8,000 to around 18 million low income households for two months.
Nograles earlier said the government can use almost P400 billion for the government’s operations against the coronavirus following the passage of the Bayanihan measure. The bulk of the funds will go to the implementation of social amelioration programs.
The inter-agency task force for the management of emerging infectious diseases recently directed the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office to transfer P420,585,000 to the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PHIC). The amount will be used to cover COVID-19-related packages of the PHIC.
The task force also endorsed the proposal of the Department of Labor (DOLE) “for the immediate release of the amount of P1.5 billion for financial assistance to overseas workers and repatriated overseas workers to be submitted to the Department of Budget and Management,” Nograles said.